One of the key changes in the role of marketing today is how much interaction and engagement marketing needs to have with other functions in order for marketing to attain their own stated goals. New responsibilities require marketers to acquire a new skill set to be successful. While the most obvious skills are technical, a skill set that is largely ignored, but is the foundation of modern marketing is communication.
Develop Basic Communication Skills
The digital skills gap for the modern marketer is growing wider every day. At the same time, the need for soft skills is exploding. Most marketers have never attended a formal communications class. They may have attended other kinds of training such as creative writing, SEO or campaign building, but given the cross-functional and highly collaborative environment marketers work in today, having expertise in communication is also an asset.
Many skills exist in the communications arsenal of the modern marketer. In this article, including active listening, holding judgment, clarifying and paraphrasing and follow-through.
Readiness in active listening has to do with approaching a conversation with an open mind and a clean slate. This entails engaging in the conversation without bias and within the context of the conversation. Your goal is to actively listen and demonstrably so. This means you are not on your e-mail. You are not on your phone. You are not thinking about the other things you have to do. You are not texting, Instagramming, Facebooking … You get the picture. Give respect to the other people in the meeting (live or on the phone) and demonstrably listen to what they have to say. This sets the tone for your relationship and ensures you are well-informed about any project you are working on.
Think about people who are great communicators versus people who are not. One action that sets them apart is the ability to hold judgment while the other person is stating their point of view and not interrupting. A common example I’ve seen in the world of marketing and sales is the conversation around marketing qualified leads or MQLs. Getting this right requires ongoing feedback from sales. If marketers constantly defend their actions rather than listen to feedback, they might be taking the long road to success.
Ask the Right Questions
The skill of clarifying is just the ability to ask great questions. I see one of two scenarios for marketers: They either ask no questions, or they ask the wrong kinds of questions. Marketers who don’t ask questions or are afraid to ask questions will have a hard time with career advancement and success. Marketers who don’t ask the right questions will suffer a similar fate.
As more marketing groups are adopting financial accountability and running marketing like a business, asking the right questions helps determine where and how to deploy marketing resources for the largest impact. In this context, asking the right questions enables one to better understand the situation. To do this, use open-ended questions. These are questions that begin with “tell me more,” “how,” “what” and “why.” In talking with sales, you might ask clarifying questions about MQLs such as: “What happened when you called the MQL?” This will give you more information than “How many MQLs did you call?”
Paraphrase for Clarity
Paraphrasing shows the other party you understand the issue and you are both on the same page. Use statements such as, “If I understand you correctly,” or “Let me repeat what I just heard,” to begin paraphrasing. Do this well and often.
Finally, all good communication closes with action. What action do you want to happen as a result of your conversation? You need to have that in mind as you go into the meeting. Then, you need to clearly ask for that action. This is one of the weakest communication areas for marketers. While they are very good at communicating ideas, they are not as good at communicating what they want to happen. Take the time to practice this as it is critical to not only next steps but also to how you are viewed as a professional.
Expand Your Communication Skills
The need for marketers to adopt and use well-honed communication skills is at an all time high. While there are many skills you need to be successful in our digital age, the core to be successful working with other groups, is your ability to communicate effectively.
- Have your entire team take a communication style assessment — learn about your communication style, learn about other communication styles and consider how to use this to be a more effective communicator.
- Have your entire team take a communications class.
- Practice your communication skills with everyone — both in and out of your group.
- Look forward to an improved relationship with other functions within your organization.
About the Author | Debbie Qaqish
Debbie Qaqish is principal partner and chief strategy officer of The Pedowitz Group. She manages global client relationships and leads the firm’s thought leadership initiatives. She has been helping B-to-B companies drive revenue growth for over 35 years.